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Reconstruction: Cradle to Grave

Tracy Murinik interviews Marco Cianfanelli:

Marco Cianfanelli: The piece that will be installed at Nirox is really like a three dimensional line drawing that I produced for a solo exhibition in 2005. It was designed as an experiment – as if you decided one night you were going to do an abstract painting and you went crazy. I literally did that on the computer very close to the show, and I decided to have this long, big figure. It was done as a FreeForm drawing with a sense of, “let’s take it as it comes”.


Tracy Murinik: Are you enjoying the process of revisiting that work after some time? That exhibition was about a year after your first son Lorenzo was born, and the works on the exhibition anticipated his arrival, in various forms throughout his gestation. A few years down the line, that work must mean different things to you?


Marco Cianfanelli: For me it is quite a weird thing to do. I don’t go back to works all that often – you move onto the next thing, and maybe you rework an idea, but you don’t practically work something out again. The way I am looking at it now is much more in its relationship to landscape. The work also now makes more sense for me as a framework, a delineation, a reconstruction of a figure that represents the individual and the collective.

The form of the sculpture is quite poetic (or descriptive), but it is equally structural and technical (compounded parallel planes of metal joined with bolts and pins) which, to me, alludes to systems, mechanisms and structures in (modern) society – I really love this dynamic and I try to achieve it in a lot of my works. In this regard the heroic scale seems ironic.

The scale of the sculpture makes sense with regard to the collective, but it is quite important with reference to the individual, as it speaks of time, history, origin, memory, geography, distance.

History (time) and geography (space) also make sense with regard to the sculpture’s placement in the Cradle of Humankind. The title for the piece, Reconstruction – cradle to grave, refers to archaeology and to ideas of birth and death (of an individual or even of humanity), which are also manifest in the pose of the figure itself and the way in which it will rest on the land.

It might have been interesting to have deconstructed the figure (even more) and scattered the parts/

units in the landscape, resulting in obscure forms that would require an almost archeological reading, 28 but I think there is merit to the figure being cohesive or representational to a degree.


Tracy Murinik: You’ve worked with landscape in many different ways, and your earlier work was more obviously about landscape and engaging land. Your focus has shifted more broadly to humanity as a general concept, but always with a tension, not unlike in this piece, between something that is both about private space and also has a public or a more universal dimension. These later works deal not only necessarily with landscape per se, but with space and existence.


Marco Cianfanelli: I suppose in a way, internally or personally, everything is spatial – narrative lines, thoughts, memories, history. So you can formalise those into something that has dimension, which is what I explored with the contours, and the morphing and the transformation of the contours, creating a legacy, a three dimensional result. I don’t worry too much about what it is about; I have a sense of the value when I think about the work I’m doing. There is a confusion or combination of aspects of landscape and a sense of self.

The big challenge with sculpture is its density and complexity, to work out how you can realise that. I love to explore the idea of forms that are full of content, but where it becomes a delicate lace-like quality, a layering. When I was in Naples years ago, I went to this little Baroque church, which is quite famous for some hyperrealistic marble sculptures – a Moses figure with a net over his face, and Christ – or is it Mary? – with a sheet over her face. It’s so life-like the way the sheet sits over the face – and

 solid; and I think it is Moses with a fishing net that’s all rope, and which is free from the face. But downstairs, what was even more incredible, was that some Renaissance person/ semi-scientist/ religious medical person took two bodies, (and it is the most bizarre thing, when you first look, it appears like two sculptures, figures that are made up of fine rusted wire, this fuzzy rusted wire), and what he’s done is he’s managed to dissect the whole body, remove everything, except for the venous system, and that’s pumped with something, so it is hard. And for me, the delicate quality, but then the density; the fact that it is the blood system is interesting, but if it were words or something, it would be incredible.

In the realm of a show, you’re constantly playing with how work becomes experiential, where you’re constantly thinking about referencing things; but also a lot in terms of scale, and your relationship to things when you move around them, whether they’re something that you read as you move along, or whether you consciously have to reprogram a sense of scale.


Tracy Murinik: So then taking something which has projected its own scale very clearly into a contained space like a gallery, and relocating it to the outdoors, where all of a sudden the work is completely stripped of its sense of scale, it then also starts to absorb other elements in the landscape. The controlled environment of the gallery makes the way one looks at it very specific, but when all of a sudden, everything that is around and through it in a landscape is going to become part of the work, maybe that is also where the scale balances itself out and shifts one’s experience of it?


Yes, and you can definitely have a much more complicated relationship when you come at it from further away. You can walk around it in a more observing way. At the gallery you were forced to walk through it and you didn’t feel as if you could circumnavigate it, or see it from its extreme point either.


Tracy Murinik: So then I think that sense of contour is going to become extremely interesting in relation to the landscape. Can I ask you perhaps an obvious question, or more of a comment about the notion of birthing essentially: because in terms of the content of this work, I find it difficult to get away from the components of what I imagine it is. And I imagine that is probably why it would be an obvious thing to take to Nirox or to the Cradle of Humankind. Yet it is not just that. If anything I imagine it’s about stepping into a world where things reveal themselves – where there’s a process of understanding of growth and evolution.


Often I have quite a neurotic relationship to the work I do. It is based often on impulse or intuition, and it’s only once it is done that I get to look at it and see why it makes sense, and start to understand. Right now, as you were speaking, both the birthing made sense, and also the way you can’t tell if the figure is trying to rise up, or is falling back down. So there is that duality. And then not far away is the Forum Homini head [a commissioned sculpture in the Cradle of Humankind which he made in 2005], for which I used a similar method and which has a very similar quality to it. But it’s actually quite abstract to me – it’s only afterwards that I can let go and create distance, and start seeing the value for myself.

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